The Alliance Partners welcomed the launch of the Technological Higher Education Association (THEA) by the Minister for Education Mr Richard Bruton, TD at Croke Park.
The establishment of THEA highlights the distinctive contribution made by the fourteen member institutions. Particular strengths include apprenticeship training in higher education; integration of entrepreneurship and work experience; optimum expressions of regional support; the digitalisation agenda; and a strong focus on work-based learning. Institutes of Technology have played a major role in widening access to higher education and the geographical distribution of the institutions has largely removed location as an access barrier, contributing considerably to greater social equality and cohesion.
Professor Brian Norton, President of DIT and Chair of the THEA Board, said “We unashamedly see ourselves as a group of institutions that view higher education participation as a right rather than a privilege. We remain committed to maintaining higher education as a public good. We have a clear remit to meet national priorities around economic and cultural development, social cohesion and equality of opportunity.”
In his keynote address, economist Dr Charles Larkin said the institutes of technology are an essential part of the economies of regional Ireland and he provided detailed employment impact figures for each region resulting from the institutions’ activities.
The conference was also reminded that the third level technological sector is in the midst of a funding crisis that must be addressed. The sector has seen a decrease in the state grant of 35%, a drop in core staffing levels of 12%, a virtual halt to capital investment and an increase in student numbers of 30% between 2008 -2015. The sector has relied on increased productivity from its talented staff at a rate that is not sustainable in the longer term.
Dr Joseph Ryan, CEO of THEA, told the conference that “Facilitating access to higher education on the part of a larger proportion of our society is the single greatest achievement of the technological sector and we have expanded countless individual’s horizons while also enhancing the welfare and quality of life for our society as a whole.”
For more visit the THEA website at http://thea.ie/